A Personal Genesis


In the beginning, God...

That's a massive leap of faith in just the first four words of the Bible. But I promised you a story, and a story I shall deliver.

I'm the youngest of five adopted children. My mom is Sicilian and was raised Catholic; my dad converted to Catholicism early on. We attended church every Sunday, and thus began my long-held habit of daydreaming in mass.

Let's be honest, most kids are not eager to hear about salvation, or exhortations on the nuts and bolts of living a good, obedient life. That's boring. The songs were boring. The kneeling and standing were boring. The priests wore dresses, which was mildly interesting, but only because their garments were embroidered. Incense was pretty cool because one could watch the smoke curl upward. And THAT, friends, was my experience with God.

These are my brothers, looking like altar boys.

It's no wonder I stopped going to church as soon as I could pack boxes and leave home. Egads. My older brothers all took turns at being altar boys. The two pictured at left are both dead, and both died in tragic circumstances. The shorter one was murdered at age 22. The taller one committed suicide at age 36 after several attempts. I don't think the church helped them understand God, either.

So I embraced shinier, more sophisticated truths for myself, including living in sin (try before you buy, am I right?), Darwin, psychology, rock music. It was all very, very cool. I read some interesting books, thought I might try spiritual channeling. I failed, because the phone rang the moment I reached trance-state, which was very likely divine intervention. Then, I considered the possibility that we're all "like, part of the same, like, energy, dude." I became briefly infatuated with The Celestine Prophecy, hoping that maybe my energy vibration would make me just disappear one day. So cool.

I married a guy who was fourteen years my senior, and who had three children with the added bonus of a bitter, mean-spirited, substance abuse-enhanced divorce to fight through. 

I love a good fight. I threw-in and did the very best a 23-year-old could do to help raise them for close to six years. I even became the Treasurer of their soccer league and Vice-President of the PTA. And, I loved the three kids so very much. I couldn't imagine life without them, even when I frequently imagined (fantasized) about life without their father. I loved the cause, but not the guy. In a choice between die, or die, what's a super-hero to do?

Some horrid, raspy voice inside me told me that this was my lot in life. In fact, it was my penance for all that searching and sinning I had done. I became convinced that the only way God would ever love me again was by staying in a dying, unbalanced relationship and suffering a tragic end. My fate was sealed.

Well, time marched a little further to a day in which I sat in a cheap plastic patio chair on the front porch, reading Ben Hur, and smoking Marlboro Lights. I was the very picture of sophistication and enlightenment. Not.

In the novel, there was mention of a prophet with piercing eyes. I don't remember if he was specifically called Jesus, but I was pretty sure that's who they were talking about. That got me thinking. So I sat and smoked, smoked and thought, thought and gazed into the middle distance. As I was wandering in my own cluttered mind, that raspy voice told me that Jesus would hate me if he met me and I believed it. It was all so sad. It may not have been a coincidence that the voice was raspy, given my smoking habit.

And then a different voice spoke up. I know what you're thinking. It was God revealing His love for me. Nope. It was my inner rebel, and here's what that saucy little minx said:

"Look, if you're going to hell anyway, you may as well live a happy life now. Why be miserable in both places?" 

She's a riot. She's also pragmatic and I love that about her.

After further relationship skirmishes, and a period of starving myself down to a scant 100 lbs, not wanting to live, but not wanting to commit suicide, I...(wait for it)

...married him

It lasted a couple of months and I finally had to bug out. It nearly killed me to leave those kids, though. And he was an ass about the whole thing. He forbade me from ever contacting them again. In fact, he marched them in front of me and said, "Tell her goodbye. You're never going to see her again." Nice guy. You can see why I married him, can't you?

OK. Let's get back on track. God.

Fast forward several years (ten?) and I met a nice guy. We dated a short time and had the most well-thought-out conversation about religion before we got married, just to be sure all our ducks were "in Formation marschieren." He's Swiss & German, so marching in formation is pretty important.

Him: What do you think about God?
Me: I believe in God.
Him: What religion are you?
Me: I guess I'm Catholic. I did all the Catholic things.
Him: I'm Lutheran.
Me: Close enough.
Him: Yep.

Boom-shaka-laka. Done. Theological genius here.

Well, we had a lovely, small wedding out in the woods at a great mountain overlook with some Native American blessing said over us. Neither of us are Native American.

Since we knew we wanted to start having kids soon, we figured we should get settled in a church in advance. You know, because that's what our parents did. A friend at my hubby's place of employment suggested one, so we went. Someone was waving a flag and dancing on stage, and people acted weird. No thanks.

We asked around, and a suggestion was made by a former boss of mine. Let me just explain this guy to you. He was in his 50's, fit as a fiddle from all his Jujitsu fighting, smart as heck, and the most delightfully funny rapscallion one could ever imagine. One fine work day, he was talking about priorities, and he said, "My priorities in this order are: God, Family, Work." That shocked me. In a Sicilian family, Family is at the top. My boss explained why that wasn't correct, AND IT MADE SENSE. In fact, that guy was the first person I ever had met who made Christianity look cool. 

I credit God for my salvation, but I credit Rick for the inspiration. True fact.

Naturally, we went to the church he suggested, and we LOVED it. Great music, nice people, relevant sermon topics. It was a weekly dose of "how to" at a time of life when one absolutely, positively must concede that one is a grown up: 33.

One lovely Sunday morning, our Pastor, Dave, told a story about sailing in a small boat in the San Francisco Bay. A cargo ship was headed right toward them, but at some distance. He drew the connection for us:

"Your faith is like our sailing adventure that day. You have to make a decision about whether you are going to sail right, or sail left, because that ship will come upon you before you know it. You can't spend time waiting, mulling it over, sitting on the fence. You MUST make a decision, or it will be made for you. Are you going to accept salvation? Are you going to reject it? Either way, decide. You're running out of time."

It's in quotation marks like I can actually remember exactly what he said. Give me a break. I can't - it was well over a decade ago. But that was the jist of it.

I credit God for my salvation, but I credit Dave for the motivation. True fact.

Pastor Dave said to close our eyes. We could stand if we wanted to accept Jesus as our Savior in privacy and without fanfare. Yes, oh yes, I surely did. This was the first time that God made sense to me. (I'll tell you more about that in another story.) It turns out my hubby felt the same that day. We made that decision independently. Thank you, God, because it's really, really hard on a marriage when one person is growing in faith, and the other isn't even interested in the subject.

Dave is still a genius. He has a ministry that is more than just church.

Here's where it gets weird.

That very night, I was dreaming. It wasn't the usual singing cheseburgers, flying horses in a purple forest kind of dream. 

WHAT? You don't get those? 

It wasn't even a burglar-at-the-window, can't-wake-up kind of dream. I don't actually have nightmares like that; my dream world is dominated by the saucy minx inner rebel who always figures out how to fly away from the bad guys, to manifest a locked door between me and a roaring lion, or to stab the psychopath in the head before things get really dire. She's one tough cookie. My friend Erinn says these are lucid dreams. IDK.

But this dream was so real. I remember having to pee. I fought the urge because the bed was warm and cozy. But my bladder ultimately won, and I had to breach the shelter of the down comforter and head down the hall. The tiniest detail of our adorable condo played out on the grey-matter screen in perfect detail. I went to the guest bathroom so I wouldn't wake the new hubby while I tinkled (that's what ladies do). The fashionable shower curtain was pulled closed and as I got up from the throne, something grabbed my arm and pulled me into the shower. The grip was so tight that it hurt and bone-chilling murmurs were punctuated by menacing growls and slurping noises. I lost my footing and started to sink into the curtain; I couldn't escape. The rebel, my sassy inner rebel, was nowhere to be found. She was cowering in fear.

I've never been that scared, and folks, some of my life has been really, really scary. I jerked awake gasping and crying. What I felt was BEYOND evil that night.

And I knew I had pissed Satan off by saying YES to salvation and escaping his grasp.

That's enough story for now.


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